C.A.R.A.D. ,Rhayader 19/11/16
published: 8 /
Keith How enjoys guitarist and instrumentalist Toby Hay's launch gig for his new EP 'Birds' in Rhayader in rural Wales
The impressive museum and gallery space in Rhayader, mid Wales, was host to this ambitious launch for local hero Toby Hay of Cambrian Records. Toby was premièring his EP and to add to the occasion he had invited two friends to perform with him. To accompany the music he had arranged an art exhibition of paintings (by yours truly) reflecting the four birds (curlew, red kite, starling and raven) and beautiful sculptures created by local blacksmith/artists Gofannon Forge. Toby had also asked me to paint live as he played his set.
The atmosphere was warm and friendly in the lovely setting. Toby introduced Sheffield guitarist Jim Ghedi who played a compelling and engaging 30 minute set. His guitar playing was sublime but his unaccompanied rendition of an ancient folk song (I didn’t catch the title) was really moving, with his voice resonating round the room without the need of amplification. When multi- instrumentalist Ghedi turned to harmonium, he seemed to call down ancient spirits from the hills as voice and instrument combined. Ghedi is a rare talent, free and uncomplicated.
Next up was David Ian Roberts hailing from Herefordshire, now residing in Cardiff. His debut album 'St Clears' received excellent reviews and his performance at C.A.R.A.D. showed why. As a singer-songwriter his work is beautiful and poetic. His voice is quite fragile and compliments his deft finger style playing. His set is a delight and songs from his new EP 'Sending Out Fires' won the case.
Tonight is home ground for Toby Hay who lives in nearby St. Harmon. His growing reputation as an instrumentalist has resulted in worldwide radio play, and an appearance at Green Man this year only furthered his reputation. His light and airy guitar work reflects the inspiration found in the surrounding landscape. 'Birds' follows on from his previous releases 'Rhayader' and 'Marteg'. Hay apologises for playing with “my head down” and everybody laughs.
'Starlings' is delightful with a lovely recurring motif running through and a playful melody line in keeping with the fantastic “murmuration” displays the starlings give in the winter months. 'Raven' is everything you might expect in response to this intelligent and lonely bird. The guitar offers an almost ragtime feel and highlights Hay’s technique. There is nothing predictable in Toby Hay’s playing. His compositions are inventive and melodic.
'Curlew Part One' and 'Part Two' convey the sense of nostalgia on hearing a Curlew’s call when they return to the hills in spring. Hay has the twelve strings ringing out while picking the evocative melody lines. 'Part Two' paints a picture of wild hills, vast expanses of still water and curlews skimming the horizon. Totally captivating.
The first thing you notice in the town of Rhayader are the Red Kites wheeling high above your head. These beautiful birds of prey are everywhere. It is really astounding. Fittingly 'Red Kite' is the final recording on the album. A gentle fragile composition that reflects the majesty of the Kite as it soars and wheels in the air. The guitar offers a delicate rolling melody that is unhurried and spacious. The track ends on a lovely full chord that rings out and fades away.
The whole event was magical. Somehow the madness of the world seemed a long way away if only for two hours. I was honoured to be part of it.
This tweet from someone who attended seemed to sum everything up:
“In today’s climate of chaos, fear and darkness, beauty can still shine its light, thank you” (Simon Joseph)